The Knight Center has published the new Spanish-language e-book, “The Reinvention of The New York Times: how the ‘gray lady’ of journalism is adapting (successfully) to the mobile era,” by Catalan journalist Ismael Nafría.
In the context of the emergence of the digital revolution and subsequent disruption of the news industry, Nafría examines the reinvention of The Times over the past 20 years. The goal: to discover useful lessons for other media, “regardless of size or location.”
“The lived transformation – and it is ongoing – by The New York Times is one of the most remarkable reinvention processes in the history of the newspaper industry. The journalistic product, the business model, the relationship with readers and advertisers, the way of working, the configuration of the team, have all changed,” Nafría wrote. “Only one thing has remained unchanged during all this time: the unequivocal will of the publishing company to bet, at all times, on journalism and information of the highest quality possible as the main basis of its business.”
The four-part book starts with concise text and visual summaries about innovation and transformation at The Times, including ten conclusions and lessons about the paper’s digital reinvention.
In Part Two, Nafría chronicles “two decades of digital reinvention” at the Times, starting with the launch of @times on America Online in 1994, and takes the reader to 2017, at which point the print and digital editions of The Times have accrued more than 3 million subscribers.
For the third section, Nafría concentrates on specific digital projects produced by The Times over the past decades, including NYT Beta and the various newsletters produced by the publication. Finally, Part Four looks at The Times’ other revenue sources, including the incorporation of live events and conferences, as well as educational trips.
“I think there are several audiences that this book may interest. On the one hand, to anyone related to the newspaper business: the case of The Times contains lessons that can help. The first part of the book is specially designed for them,” Nafría told the Knight Center. “On the other hand, those who like, are interested or curious to know more about The New York Times will find a lot of information in the book.”
The author added that the book can easily be read in parts according to topics of interest.
“I hope –as has happened to me – that lovers of good journalism discover the great work that The Times has done. The book is full of links that allow you to expand information or consult the journalistic works mentioned,” Nafría added.
A consultant and former executive and editor for the last 30 years, Nafría writes from the point of view of a news consumer, an industry consultant, a perennial student of journalism innovation and former executive.
The book is complete with data visualizations painstakingly compiled by Nafría after searching through troves of information on the U.S. paper of record.
That author said that during this process, one of the things that struck him was “a deep will for change, transformation and adaptation to the new times that is detected throughout the organization.” Despite that acceptance of change, Nafría noted that the paper always maintains “an unwavering commitment to journalism of quality.”
“I was positively surprised by the degree of transparency and willingness to explain that is detected in some of the paper’s initiatives, although sometimes it may seem the opposite,” Nafría added. “If you know how to search and have patience, you can discover many things about The Times, and I think this book is good proof of it.”
Professor Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, noted in the optimism in Nafría's book concerning the future of both The Times and journalism as a whole.
"The reinvention of The New York Times serves to renew our hope that traditional journalistic companies can survive and thrive in the new world that emerged from the digital revolution. But first, they have to understand the enormous dimensions of the changes that are happening in the world, then try to reinvent and re-align," Alves wrote in the prologue to Nafría's book. "The example of what has happened with The New York Times, analyzed in an unprecedented manner in this book, will be of great use to those who are interested in helping newspapers in the difficult transition they have to make."
Nafría first came up with the idea for the book in 2013 and has worked on it in earnest starting in September 2016 when he joined the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) as a journalist in residence.
“I decided to write this book because it seems to me that it could be very useful for the entire journalism industry – which is undergoing a very important crisis concerning business model – to really understand the effort for transformation that The Times was undertaking,” Nafría said. “I have lived these problems directly, from within the industry, and I have tried to extract lessons from the case of the NYT that can help other media outlets.”
Nafría previously worked as director of digital innovation and director of digital content of Grupo Godó media company in Spain, and deputy director of Content at Prisacom. From 1999 to 2005, he authored the weekly column “La Crónica” at La Vanguardia Digital, where he was editor-in-chief for two years.
This is Nafría’s fourth book. He has also authored “Internet es útil” (Internet is useful; 2008), “Web 2.0. El usuario, el nuevo rey de Internet” (Web. 20. The user, the new king of the internet; 2007) and “Sr. Director: Les millors cartes dels lectors de La Vanguardia” (Mr. Director: the best readers’ letters to La Vanguardia; 2004).
While at UT Austin as journalist in residence, Nafría has audited lectures, participated in conferences and helped to organize and edit a special series on digital innovation in Latin American journalism for the Journalism in the Americas blog. He also keeps a blog on digital journalism.
“The Reinvention of The New York Times: how the ‘gray lady’ of journalism is adapting (successfully) to the mobile era” is available in digital format for free on the Knight Center website and Nafría’s site. Physical copies can be purchased from Amazon.
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has published free eBooks in Spanish, English and Portuguese since 2007. Most recently, the Center published Brazilian journalist Ricardo Gandour's
"A New Information Environment." Other popular books include Guillermo Franco's "How to write for the web" and Sandra Crucianelli's "Digital Tools for Journalists."
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.